I have a deep and enduring need to become real

combined chamber and electronics ensembles, 2019

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Context

I had the opportunity to write this thanks to a commission from the Dancz Center for the Arts at the University of Georgia. This piece was an experiment for me, in a number of different directions, most of which involve processing in Max.

The main focus of this piece was its instrumentation: it needed to be written for a combination of a laptop ensemble and chamber ensemble. I tried to keep it as open as possible, while discovering the limitations of that openness as I went. The laptop ensemble members sample bits and pieces of the chamber performers, and use smartphone controls on a Max patch to explore how much feedback is put on those samples. I'm not typically a fan of feedback pieces, but I thought exploring physical gestures with the accelerometer of a phone would be a more physically obvious way to show the "danger" of rapidly exploding sound.

I was also interested in finding another angle on my obsession with using text in pieces, specifically in destroying text in ways that are still perceptible to the audience (see: Tomorrow). Given that I was in a seminar about understanding Jitter, I explored misusing APIs to create visuals. So: for every line the vocalist speaks, they trigger recordings of their voice, which are sent to the IBM Watson API for speech-to-text conversion. They stand apart from the rest of the ensemble, continuously repeating the same poem while it gets chopped up by the patch, and by Watson.

Everything came together pretty quickly for this, both in composition, and in rehearsal. The whole project was both an experience and an experiment, and I came away from it with a better sense of how much you can expect from yourself, and from strangers (there's a big range!). I have a deep and enduring need to become real was a good first step for me in moving away from pieces that deliberately speak to trauma, and I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to write it. My thanks to the Rote Hund and Dawg Bytes Ensembles for playing the piece so well + putting on a great show, and to Peter Van Zandt Lane and the UGA composition grad students for being such wonderful hosts!